Good news for Burma is bad for UN staff losing luxury offices to returning tourists

Prices of 'average' hotel rooms leap from $30 to $100

Asia Correspondent

In the latest sign of the pace of change in Burma, the UN is having to leave the offices they have occupied in two luxury hotels because the tourism boom means the owners can earn more by renting them out them out to foreign visitors.

Around ten UN agencies are to vacate the space in the Traders and Inya Lake hotels in Rangoon where they have been based for the last six years. The ownership of the hotels has calculated they can earn more by renting out the rooms to the wave of tourists pouring into Burma.

"We have known about this for some time," the UN's Burma spokesman, Aye Win, told The Independent. "When we signed the leases in August 2012 it was on the basis that they would not go beyond 2013...This is really a story about land prices and rental fees."

The UN moved into the establishments in the centre of Rangoon in 2007. That September the streets of the city were filled with clashes between Buddhist monks and the security forces during the Saffrom Revolution. Tourists were very few in number.

But since the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in late 2010 and the lifting of Western sanctions last year, tourist numbers have rocketed. 2012 saw visitor numbers increase by a third and passed the one million mark. That same year, Burma earned $534m from tourism, a 67 per cent increase from 2011.

And with only a limited number of hotels to cater to these visitors, prices of rooms have leapt. Very average hotels that in 2007 charged $30 for a room, can now command more than $100 and occupancy rates are close to 100 per cent. More and more Western hotel chains are announcing plans to build properties.

The World Health Organisation, Unicef, UN Aids, the International Organisation for Migration, the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking and the International Labor Organisation all had their Burma headquarters at Traders while the World Food Programme, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Office for Project Services were located in Inya Lake Hotel.

The Traders Hotel, part of the Shangri-La group owned by Chinese-Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok, offers rooms from around $235 per night, almost double the price charged by its sister hotel in Hong Kong. Inya Lake's rooms start at $180 per night.

Steve Marshall, the ILO Liaison Officer in Burma, told the Irrawaddy website that Traders had informed all UN agencies in August last year that it would not extend their lease beyond 2013, and that UN organisations at Inya Lake had also been asked to move. "It's not a matter of being thrown out, it's a different commercial environment now," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot